Photo by Kate Szrom: Courtesy of Portland Center Stage at The Armory.
What constitutes an extraordinary live performance, in your opinion?
Chantal DeGroat (CD): An extraordinary live performance feels like a dream, or meditation to me. Everything outside the room goes away, and all that’s left is me, the rest of the audience, and the performers to twist and dive into the world we created together in the space.
Dana Green (DG): Those special nights when the audience and performers feed off each other. Nights when you can hear a pin drop, a gasp, a sob, or (conversely) a snort of laughter that starts a laughing loop between the audience and the actors that goes on for two minutes.
Lauren Bloom Hanover (LBH): Something that engages an audience, that surprises and moves them, that challenges while also inspiring empathy.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about anything?
CD: I remember two pieces of advice my grandfather gave, both have resurfaced many a time as a helping hand: “You never know until you try” and “You gotta eat a little dirt before ya die.”
DG: During a speech at my theater school graduation, a wise playwright said, “Keep your eyes on your own paper.” In other words, let go of comparisons. Focus on your own career path. In the competitive and often baffling world of employment in the arts, never were truer words spoken.
LBH: Don’t wait for permission to do what you love.
How do you rehearse? What does a typical session entail?
CD: Rehearsal, for me, is all about finding the connective tissue between words and movement, my character, and those of my fellow actors. It’s about searching for the rules and form of our ‘dance’ together, trusting my impulses to fly me from moment to moment. How does that happen? I need a mountain of repetition.
DG: I come in with all my homework and script analysis I’ve done prior to the first day and then start the amazing work of collaboration. That’s when I get to see where the director’s vision guides us and how my fellow actors surprise and push me in different directions that I’d never find on my own.
LBH: How I rehearse is determined by the script and the character. But I suppose in every process, I try to have fun, play, and discover something surprising about the character or how to tell the story. Also, I try to be present, to listen and respond in the moment to what other people are bringing to the table. Some days are more successful than others.
How did you prepare to play these characters, in particular?
CD: I asked female friends about miscarriage. I looked to the elements to whisper in my ear and energize the quality of my awareness and took a big ol’ breath before I leaped into this ethereal work. Also, I moved one foot in front of the other while feeling a continuous, low modality of fear.
DG: With Shakespeare, I love to look at as many editions as I can. I sift through different editors’ notes on interpretation and punctuation for as many options as possible. With every role, it’s exploring step by step until a full picture emerges.
LBH: Well, I think I am playing nine characters. I prepared by doing a lot of text work. I tried to get my lines memorized before we began the rehearsal process so that I could quickly focus on exploring and playing with the director and other actors. I also spent some time formulating a few loose ideas about each character and how I might be able to differentiate one from another.
Who or what inspires you?
CD: People who have a ‘knowing’ about life, who have a twinkle in their eyes. The wind blowing wildly through my hair. For some reason, it feels like I become enlightened to a secret of being alive.
DG: The language of the plays themselves, Whether it’s Shakespeare or a more contemporary piece, I love looking for clues in the punctuation and the structure of the play to help guide my performance. There are so many ways to approach a role. For me, the answers always lie in the play itself.
LBH: Time out in nature. Activists and advocates. Really wonderful scripts, gifted performers. My daughter.
What, for you, is the most fulfilling aspect of your life as an actor?
CD: When a performance is really good, really in the pocket, it sometimes feels as if I can transcend time, history and boundaries. It can feel as if there is no separation between me and the audience. All agreed rules of society fall away, and everyone in the theater lives in harmony for that brief time — a living, breathing dream.
DG: The chance to slip into many different skins and stories. Making people laugh. Helping people reflect on their own experiences in a new way. Expanding empathy in myself and others.
LBH: The opportunity to collaborate with talented and wonderful human beings. Then, to tell the story we’ve put together to a room full of people, who directly impact how the story is told, making it different every time.
Artslandia’s theme for the 2019–20 season is A Night Out. Describe for our readers our perfect night out.
CD: Ooooh. A perfect night out for me would include a couple of great friends and grilling a light, early dinner. Maybe salmon and salad. We’d sip on white or pink wine, get hydrated, and get dressed to go dancing — tons of laughing and listening to music while we get ready. Then, we’d go to hear live music. Maybe at Blue Diamond. Then we’d walk home and stop to devour some tasty Mexican food. If nobody stubs their toe on the way home, it’s a good night!
DG: Sushi, an amazing night of theater, followed by drinks, french fries, and wonderful conversation about everything we witnessed and the discoveries we made.
LBH: A perfect night out has changed a lot since my early 20s. Now, a night in a backyard with a group of friends during summer, drinking wine and talking until the wee hours, is pretty perfect. I also always love a night that includes a delicious dinner, an amazing show — theater, music, dance, comedy — and then a drink afterward to debrief and discuss.
Tell us something unexpected about yourself.
CD: I have daydreams about being a Zen priest and living at a monastery.
DG: I quake at public speaking and can be pretty shy in larger groups.
LBH: My favorite movie is The Lord of the Rings trilogy.